Whether good or bad, YouTube allows virtually anyone to become a star overnight. Point and case: Tay Zonday’s ever so popular “Chocolate Rain” has garnered 10.5 million views to date and references on Carson Daly’s Last Call and The Daily Show not to mention a live performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
With the ease of communication and technological advances however, comes a whole new set of legal issues including the ever so controversial IP infringement. And at the moment it is a blurry line that publishers, the music industry and law makers are navigating to find appropriate ways to enforce current IP laws. I attended a recent conference hosted by Boston University’s School of Law and College of Communication where one of the principle speakers, Gigi Sohn, co-founder of Public Knowledge and an internationally known communications attorney, posed several changes to the current copyright law. She noted, “copyright law has become out of touch with our technological reality to the detriment of creators and the public.”
One of the examples of this disconnect that Gigi provided was the current debate of Google’s Book Search program, which allows anybody to search for passages in books that are part of Google’s system. Book publishers argue that by making a digital copy of the book Google is violating their copyrights. On the flip side, if a library is paying for the book in the first place and users aren’t able to see the entire book, then it shouldn’t be a violation. If the court sides with the authors, I agree that this would hinder future technological advancements, as Gigi rightly projects; “imagine if Google, Yahoo, Ask and MSN had to get prior permission from every single webpage owner whose works they link to!”
Lawmakers aren’t faced with an easy task. Laws need to be written that better suit today’s current digital world while still protecting the content creator. From NBC Universal alone, YouTube receives about 1,000 takedown notices a month! Recently, several of the larger media companies including Viacom, Walt Disney and Microsoft agreed to use technology to eliminate copyright-infringing content—however I question the effectiveness of the technology. One court outcome that inevitably will affect the industry is Viacom’s $1 billion suite against YouTube. If content creators aren’t rightfully compensated for their work, the quality and amount of creativity is likely to decrease. In the end, it is the consumer’s dollars that are going to have the largest impact. iTunes massive digital sales have already shown the consumer’s distaste for a $17 CD.